My wife and I recently took a holiday unlike any other we ever had. For 10 days, we walked along an ancient pilgrimage route ending at Santiago, Spain, to a church where, as tradition has it, the bones of the Apostle James were laid to rest.
Not being the outdoor trekking sort, we chose to walk the shortest route – the 100-km route instead of the full 700-km one. We even took a trek where we did not have to carry our luggage ourselves. In short, we did the kinder version of the Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James.
People of all ages and walks of life do the Camino. Their motivation also varies.
We met a recently-widowed Italian retired architect who, despite an injured foot, wanted to bring the memory of her husband to Santiago. We did not ask if this trip had been planned before his untimely death and thus her doing it alone was her way of fulfilling their plans. It was a reminder for us that our departed loved ones never leave us – they stay with us in our memories and can thus be part of our present, not just the past.
Then there was someone, probably a young girl, who left handwritten notes on the Camino’s numerous stone markers. Out of curiosity, we read a few – each carried short confessions to people she had hurt and she asked for their forgiveness. The girl’s actions were a lesson in the importance of not letting our lives be encumbered by the burden of sin. If only we make the effort to leave them behind as we journey through life, perhaps we may enjoy happier lives.
The process of walking also carried many lessons. Like the journey of life, we needed to know our destination and have good guidance. Unlike some who meticulously plan, e.g. for their children’s future or for retirement, I admit that I have not made detailed plans. However, I try to take comfort in the fact that even if I do not know the exact way ahead, my life will be on course if I rely on the Author of the Way, the Truth and the Life as my guide. What is your life’s destination and do you know the Author of The Way of life?
Another lesson in walking, especially on a long journey, is about having good companions. We were constantly encouraged by greetings of Buen Camino (Happy or Good Camino) from complete strangers who were fellow pilgrims. If only we all remember to share the same spirit of encouragement to help spur our fellow believers and pilgrims along.
Many of us journey through life alone or wear a sour look about us. We neither receive encouragement nor give it to others. How much more pleasant our journey would be if we changed this attitude!
The final lesson to share here is one of letting go. I am referring to letting go of not only past sins or even hurts but also of good experiences. Each day of our trek brought new experiences. Many were very pleasant, like the comfortable guest houses with warm, hospitable hosts. Nevertheless, we had to move on with our journey.
In the same way, we need to say farewell even to some sweet memories. It is sometimes not easy and we want to tarry a little. But the journey demands that we move on and perhaps, in doing so, we can embrace newer experiences, be they good or bad ones, and get closer to our final destination.
Background picture by Mark VanDyke Photography/Bigstock.com
Benny Bong –
has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.